The renovated London venue, The View, was the setting for Rioja’s 100km of Diversity, an extraordinary deep dive into the variety of wine types and styles you can find in the region. Roger Jones sampled from the latest Viñedo Singulares, Espumoso de Rioja, barrel-aged whites, rosados, Gran Reservas and many more classic Tempranillo. Here he picks a selection of the best red and whites that should be on your radar.
“Rioja’s 100km of Diversity proved what a diverse region Rioja is,” writes Jones
Rioja to most consumers means barrel-aged red wines from the Tempranillo grape, but at the recent Rioja’s 100km of Diversity tasting it was clear that Rioja is an unique region with diversity at its heart, and the 40 producers, winemakers and importers who travelled over from Spain were certainly pressing this point. This thousand-year-old wine area has such a magical array of landscapes, climates, valleys, grape styles and colours that it was right to celebrate and showcase everything in its harvest basket, from the latest Viñedo Singulares, the finest Espumoso de Rioja, barrel-aged whites, elegant rosados, classic Gran Reservas and everything in between.
Good to see the winemakers there in force, and also to have a chance to discover the excellence and breadth of the white wines from this region, that many attendees may well have not been aware of – it is certainly something that regulatory board, the Consejo Regulador Denominación Origen Calificada Rioja, has tried to increase awareness of in recent years.
For me it is the new fresh, clean approach that will win over consumers – bright wines that glow with excitement and lift a gloomy winter’s day. Apart from the whites there were also many interpretations of the Garnacha grape on show at the Rioja’s 100km of Diversity tasting, with the best sitting comfortably in a World Class level. And let’s not forget, of course, the traditional red classics, with many of these also being made in a more refined style.
Standout wines at the Rioja’s 100km of Diversity tasting
Finca Valpiedra 2016, 12% Blanco Viura, Garnacha Blanca, Malavasia & Maturana Blanca
24 months in French oak, this was the first vintage of the Finca Valpiedra Blanco, with the 2017 to follow soon. Familia Martínez Bujanda hope that this wine will age for at least 20 years. The grapes are sourced from the Peña del Gato vineyard (1 hectare) which contains Viura vines of 100+ years old. The Reserva Blanco production is limited to only 1200 bottles. This wine carried the oak ageing beautifully, giving it a fabulously textured feel – citrus curd, peeled stone fruit and fresh acidity but still having that enveloping cuddle. Certainly would evolve now with decanting or even better serve with some Grilled Hake with Chorizo and Vine Tomatoes. RRP £48 (Berkmann)
Las Planas, Vinedos De Alfaro 2016, 14% Gran Reserva
This 100% Viura is barrel aged has a hint of amontillado on first taste but this quickly disappears into the fresh, textured, citrus curd, bright buoyant mouthfeel. Made from 40 year old vines, this is a beautiful, full, focused and rich (but fresh) Viura, which is drinking well now and will age gracefully. RRP £46 (Sommeliers Choice)
Cosme Palacio 2018, 13% Reserva Blanco RRP £19.99 (North South Wine) Viura 100%
Cosme Palacio 1894, 13.5% Gran Reserva Blanco RRP £55 (North South Wines) 93% Viura 7% Malvasia
Two excellent wines from Bodegas Cosme Palacio, the Reserva is easy drinking, offering a fresh, clean-fruited wine, with tinned fruit notes, juicy, peeled Pear William, bright, syrup-enhanced with citrus notes. The Gran Reserva is an exceptional wine (‘restrained elegance’ I noted), which is well balanced, and whose buttery texture reminds me of classy white Bordeaux. The mouthfeel is quite impressive leaving a beautiful memory on the palate. Very happy to drink this now.
Lanave 2020, 12.5% Blanco
65% Viura, 35% Garnacha Blanca
Racy, fresh, spiced, textured and a perfect easy drinking white that has a lovely purity to it. RRP £15 (Graft)
Laventura 2020, 12.5% Blanco
Peeled stone fruit, silky texture, this barrel-fermented wine has hints of lime marmalade, a touch of brioche and a fabulous, creamy, citrus curd on the mid-palate. RRP £22 (Graft)
Luis Canas 2020, 13.5%
90% Viura 10% Malvasia
Loved the fresh, clean focus of this wine, minerality, and bright clean fruit, creamy mid-palate with hints of red apples, lemon pith and nectarines. RRP £16.99 (Alliance Wines)
Bodegas Muga 2021, 13.5%
Viura, Garnacha Blanca, Malvasia Rioja
Classic white Rioja from the masters – excellent value and delivers a beautifully balanced, restrained wine with a fine texture. RRP £15 (C&D)
Don Quintin Ortega 2020, 13%
90% Viura, 5% Malvasia, 5% Garnacha Blanca
Bright and focused, minerals and restrained stone fruit in balance, the freshness carries throughout the palate, bringing a smile to your face. RRP £16.95 (Jeroboams)
SJ Anteportalatina 2020, 14% Blanco
High limestone content from a tiny plot that was replanted in 1989; as for the wine it has a floral and mineral nose, then peeled white stone fruit and a lingering, textured feel… quite remarkable. Famously this plot also produces Añadas Frías, but never in the same year, and is reserved for wetter years, less common, but am told it is also rather special. RRP £60 (New Generation Wines)
Rioja Vega 2021, 13.5% Blanco
100% Tempranillo Blanco
Yes 100% Tempranillo Blanco, first made in 2014, Rioja Vega was one of the first pioneers to push Tempranillo Blanco, and what a result. On first hit it has lovely fresh, peeled stone fruit note that evolves with hints of tropical fruit, then a linear focus, some minerality and overall fine balance. Great value and a fine example of how good white Tempranillo can be. RRP £15 (House of Townsend)
Eralena 2015, Vinedos de Alfaro, 14%
Only one barrel was made of this inaugural vintage so do not worry about the price as you will not be able to get hold of any, but if you do manage to taste one of the 280 bottles you are in for a treat. Pure heaven, silky purity, seamless, precise, wow! what an incredible wine. RRP £165 (Sommeliers Choice)
Solomazuelo 2018, Arizcuren Bodega Y Vinedos, 14%
Intense, amphora-aged wine that has silky blackcurrants and savoury spice in abundance – the winemaker is an ex-architect, having now taken over his father’s vineyards. Exceptional value for wine sourced from 100 year old vines. RRP £23.61 (Carte Blanche Wines)
Vina Ardanza, Rioja Alta Reserva 2015, 14.5%
88% Tempranillo 12% Garnacha
Benchmark Rioja, stunning, I marvel at the way that they age these wines ready to be drunk by consumers immediately. RRP £26.90, currently on offer at £22.84 (Armit)
Cantos de Valpiedra 2018, 13%
Clean, fresh-faced and refined, classic new style Rioja that oozes with class, focus, and flavours of bright clean red berries. RRP £16.50 (Berkmann)
Macán Clásico 2018, Bodegas Benjamin De Rothschild & Vega Sicilia, 14%
The second wine of Macan, which certainly delivers with a true Bordeaux style – cassis, cedar and spice, blackcurrants and a lovely delicate, lingering finish, I would age further to get the full monty. RRP £50 (Berkmann)
Balcon de Pilatos 2019, 13.5%
Dark, chewy, intense cherries, hints of Christmas cake, cocoa, vanilla and blackcurrants – I love the intensity and richness of this. RRP £26 (Berkmann)
Hacienda El Ternero 2014 Reserva, 14%
95% Tempranillo 5% Mazuelo
This has aged nicely, fruit-forward with a backbone of tannin giving it a savoury edge; the wine lingers for an age, and then the fruit opens up on the mid-palate giving you a real lift with violets and spice, black cherries, plums and aged balsamic – a joy. RRP £30 (Ellis Wines)
Don Quintin Ortega 2014, 14%
80% Tempranillo 20% Garnacha
Perfumed elegant style, this single vineyard wine has luscious cherries and plums, some graphite and spice with a silky, pure finish – great price for an 8-year-old wine. RRP £27.95 (Jeroboams)
Pujanza Norte 2018, Bodegas y Vinedos Pujanza, 14.5%
Beautifully balanced Rioja, yes it has power and structure but combine that with a velvety, silky feel this delivers pure magic. RRP £60 (New Generation)
Pujanza Cisma 2018, 14.5%
A clean, pure, focused, seductive wine of brilliant quality – it has gentle spice, is silky, intense, long and velvety, I would love to see this aged. RRP £170 (New Generation)
Cirsion 2018, Bodegas Roda 14.5%
90% Temparanillo, 10% Graciano
Layers and layers of refined, complex flavours that envelope your palate – intense but pure, focused but fresh, I love this wine. This will age gracefully but gives great pleasure now – just decant and use a large glass. RRP £195 (Mentzendorff)
Aistear 2016, Bodega 202 14%
Floral on the nose with bright, clean and focused fruit; I love the purity here and the ease of drinking; notes of blackberries, violets and cocoa – the wine holds onto its freshness and has a lovely depth. RRP £25 (seeking UK representation).
Ansa 2016, Bodega 202 14%
Thyme and rosemary, raspberries and redcurrants, spices, mint and mocha. Dark and brooding. This is a lovely textured wine that sparkles with elegance on the palate. RRP £42 (seeking UK representation).
There’s a tiny production of these single estate wines, from a bodega owned by Michael Rooney an attorney based in Washington, with wines made by the charming Luis Güemes.